Matthew G. Miller & Netty Ismail:
Billionaire Rahul Bajaj is obsessed with his Davos car pass.
The 74-year-old chairman of Pune, India-based Bajaj Auto Ltd. (BJAUT), the nation’s second largest motorcycle company and maker of the country’s popular three-wheeled auto rickshaw, has come to the Swiss Alpine resort town to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting every year since 1979….
[Rahul] Bajaj left the Russian meeting within 15 minutes and walked through several tan corridors to one of the Congress Centre’s many bilateral meeting rooms, where small groups can have private discussions. There he met with a group of Indian executives on corruption, which he described as “absolutely immoral” and a waste of time to try and solve.
He then joined Dell at the IBC meeting, which included a lunch and was off-limits to reporters. Four hours later, Bajaj emerged tired, saying he had only slept five hours the night before. As hundreds of people lined up to get their coats, he pushed on to the main auditorium to hear speeches by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Before Schwab completed his opening remarks, Bajaj was again restless, left the room and called his driver.
Exiting through the private basement designated for Double- As, Bajaj asked his driver to take him to the Belvedre for a reception being held by Harvard University. The billionaire’s car pass, he said, allowed him to drive straight up to the hotel’s entrance rather than climb several sets of stairs. He has had a heart attack in 1984, he said, and didn’t want to exert himself.
At the Harvard party: Carlyle Group managing director and billionaire David Rubenstein; New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Bajaj ambled through the room, having one-minute conversations with a dozen people before calling his driver after a half hour. He then returned to his hotel before attending a private dinner for 250 people hosted by Schwab, which he said was “a bore.”
He returned to the Belvedere for his own party around 10 p.m. An hour later, scores of people, including billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the world’s biggest private equity firm Blackstone Group, waited in line to clear security and check their coats. Downstairs, Bajaj sipped a cocktail near the door, greeting everyone with a smile, handshake and story.
The event had the feel of a family reunion. Almost all of the guests were Indian, and many wanted to take a picture with Bajaj and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was a guest.
“Today was a lot of fun,” he said. “And I come here to have fun. I saw so many of my friends. I’m tired, but I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.”